Thought Space and Lessons at Orchard School

(Update from Claire Stoney - Ebe Youth Leader)

This term, I spent three weeks in Orchard School. We meet in Orchard for our Sunday services, but it’s quite a different place during the week! At the beginning of November I set up a prayer space in a ‘spare’ room, and this ran during break and lunch times. This meant that students and staff could come along and try praying (or just thinking and reflecting) with some interactive activities on various topics such as: thankfulness, grief, being calm, and the refugee crisis. For most of them, this might have been the first time they’d even considered talking to God! The OSB staff and I decided to call this room a ‘Thought Space’ so that young people who have never prayed before wouldn’t be afraid to try it out. Lots of different students (of all beliefs and none) visited the space over the three days it was open, some coming back time and again and some only discovering it on the last day! I had help from volunteers from Ebe and St Michael’s Church, and we all enjoyed chatting to young people and seeing them engage with the different sections of the room. The biggest hit was the ‘Be Still’ space; a bubble tube, fairy lights, cushions, blankets and the instruction to ‘be still’ wasn’t something the young people are were used to having in school, but many asked ‘why can’t this be here all the time?!’. For me, it was really encouraging to see young people spending time in a room where God was expected rather than ‘weird’! I also enjoyed meeting young people I know from Lates, our Friday night youth group, and building relationships with young people I’ve never met before. My favourite question that came out of the prayer space experience was ‘but how did God make us? Where did He find all the parts?’. It was also really lovely to see all the things the students made with Plasticine in the ‘be thankful’ activity.

In the two weeks following the Thought Space, I spent time running ‘Question a Christian’ lessons. I had the opportunity to speak to every pupil in Year 10 over the two weeks. These lessons were quite straightforward; I would introduce myself for five minutes, and then the students could ask me any question they wanted about Christianity or being a Christian. It was a real blessing to be able to speak freely about Jesus and what He means to me in a school environment. Some of my favourite questions were the ones I didn’t know the answers to, and it was fun to be able to break down some of the assumptions that people seem to make about Christians. I also really enjoyed getting to know some members of staff and hearing their questions, too. The picture of the whiteboard shows about half of the topics we covered in one class. Some notable questions I remember were ‘how do you find the strength to love people all the time?’, ‘If I wanted to become a Christian how long does it take?’ and ‘can I REALLY still go to heaven if I don’t do everything right?’. At the end of one lesson the teacher asked each student to share something they’d learnt in that lesson, and the responses included: ‘that God appreciates everyone.’, ‘that Christianity is well different to what I thought!’, and ‘that God might actually be real!’. After one of my scheduled Year 10 lessons, the teacher asked if I would be able to stay for her next lesson, too – she had a class of Year 11s for RE and thought that they’d really enjoy a Question a Christian lesson… what a bonus! Although all of these opportunities were spiritually quite hard work, it was encouraging that the young people engaged well. I really enjoyed spending time I school and getting to know some new members of staff. I know God is working in Orchard already and I would love more opportunities to join Him in that, so please be praying. Pray for each young person who had the opportunity to hear about Jesus or experience the prayer space, as well as the staff. The site team and teachers I worked with had as many questions as the students! Pray for more opportunities to build God’s kingdom in our local school. Thanks!